A Trip to Karamoja: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Posted on April 20th, 2018

As the Haileybury Youth Trust’s training partnership with Enabel in Karamoja moves into construction phase, HYT volunteer Angelica Pettafor (H 12) shares her first impressions of the region!


Visit to GIZ Karamoja

Angelica, Eric and Philip visit the GIZ Climate Change Adaptation Centre in Karamoja.


A Trip to Karamoja: A Volunteer’s Perspective – by Angelica Pettafor

Having now spent over two months in Uganda as an HYT volunteer, I have enjoyed settling into the peaceful and relaxed approach to life; a contrast from the shop floor in the centre of London during the busy Christmas period.


Angelica and Callum with ISSB

There is plenty to do on HYT construction sites, using the interlocking stabilised soil block (ISSB).


Besides visits to some of the more distant HYT training sites in Kamuli and Mayuge, as well as a trip to Sipi Falls, I hadn’t yet explored too much of Uganda. I was very excited when I found out we would be taking a trip up north to the Karamoja region, in preparation for the forthcoming Enabel project. I had heard a lot about the region as well as the Karamojong, who are known in Uganda for their traditional and tribal way of life – similar to the Masai in Kenya. I was very interested to see if all that I had heard was true.


Karamojong Camels

Fortunately we had factored camel crossings into the journey time!


We set off early on Monday morning as the estimated drive time was slightly ambiguous, and despite Google Maps estimating only 6 hours, we had been told we would not make it in a day. Little did we know and much to our delight, the journey would turn into a self-drive safari! We spotted a troop of baboons in the trees only a few metres from the truck, and even had to come to a standstill while waiting for a caravan of camels to cross the road. The journey took about 8 hours, and while slightly on the lengthier side, it was amazing watching the landscape change as we passed from region to region, and left the dusty burnt orange roads and lush greenery of Jinja to enter a savanna.


Karamojong Youth

Karamojong youths adopt a stylish mixture of Western and East African clothing.


It was only when driving from Nakapiripirit to Moroto we began to see some of the Karamojong, wearing their robes and hat with an ostrich feather, and carrying sticks for herding cattle, as well as a small wooden stool. I was told that the cattle herding sticks are passed down from generation to generation, and so carry a far more sentimental value that I initially realised. By Wednesday we had completed most of our tasks, so we took a drive deep into the rural Karamoja villages to visit a family who were laying the thatched roof to their newly built banda. A karamojong family builds bandas which are enclosed by a fence to make a manyatta. Many manyattas are then arranged adjacent to one another, to enclose a space in the middle where cattle are often kept.


Angelica roofs with the Karamojong

A hands-on approach is the best way to learn Karamojong roofing techniques, even in the baking sun.


Despite the language barrier, we were wholeheartedly welcomed up onto the roof and were shown how to lay and tie each layer of grass to the one below. I was surprised at how simple yet effective the process is, and impressed by how such a strong roof was made entirely from locally sourced materials. We were certainly learning from the best! This was my highlight of the trip; not only was it great to get involved, but I found it fascinating to see such a rich culture in the villages that has been preserved over the centuries.


GIZ Huts in Karamoja

The ISSB huts will combine traditional ingenuity with cutting edge sustainable technology.



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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at hytuganda.com

HYT Partners with Enabel – Belgian Development Agency, in Karamoja

Posted on March 27th, 2018

8 months after winning the 2017 Ashden Award for Sustainable Buildings, the Haileybury Youth Trust has exciting news for 2018. HYT has been selected by Enabel, Belgium’s development agency, to teach Interlocking Stabilised Soil Block (ISSB) construction across Northern Uganda, from Karamoja to Yumbe!

Enabel poster

The low-cost, environmentally friendly building technique will be taught to 150 trainees, in vocational training institutes and refugee settlements. Equipping young Ugandans and refugees with employable construction skills will transform their lives, their communities and their environment.


Nakapiripirit Youths, Karamoja

Youths from a rich variety of cultures will gain employable skills together here in Nakapiripirit.


The first project takes place in Nakapiripirit, a town of three streets or so, nestled high in the Eastern Rift Mountains. HYT will be working with the students of Nakapiripirit Technical Institute, to construct a round staff house using curved earth blocks.


Nakapiripirit High Street, Karamoja

As the town of Nakapiripirit expands, it must do so in harmony with its stunning natural environment.


The project will make use of building techniques familiar to the Karamoja Region, including thatched grass roofing. The team travelled to the town of Nabilatuk to discover more about local approaches to this practice.


Roofing in Nakapiripirit

HYT Intern Angelica (H 12) was one of the first onto the roof, and one of the fastest learners!


Two hours out of Nakapiripirit, the ‘chief town’ of the district, HYT’s field team was invited to enter a manyatta (compound), where a new hut was under construction. Here they learned how to thatch directly from local women, with varying success.


Thatching in Nakapiripirit

Assistant Country Manager Charlie Tebbutt (K 08) took a little longer to grasp the thatching techniques.


Particularly enlightening was the explanation that all construction materials are sourced from the surrounding savannah. This sustainable approach to building is something that HYT and the Karamojong have in common, promising a successful collaboration.


HYT & Enabel in Nakapiripirit, Karamoja

The Enabel and HYT teams met at Nakapiripirit Technical Institute to plan the project’s progress.


After meeting with the Enabel team and setting out the project aims and location, it was time to head home. The journey from Jinja to Karamoja and back is a long one, and full of surprises…


Ostrich in Karamoja

A drive through Karamoja reveals the close and complex relationships between society and the natural environment.


But HYT is used to that. Its own journey has taken it from the streets of Stepney to the banks of the Nile, and now to the mountains of Karamoja. The project, which begins next week, marks an important step on the road to sustainable development here in Uganda.


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Winners of the Ashden International Award for Sustainable Buildings 2017.

Watch our exciting video, or check out our work at hytuganda.com